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A Year with the ADAA, Part 1: Judging the Adobe Design Achievement Awards

Posted by Rebecca Blake on June 24, 2017

Over the past year, Guild member and designer Theresa Whitehill of Colored Horse Studio has had a unusual relationship with software giant Adobe: that of both judge and mentor in their 2016 student Adobe Design Achievement Awards. As judge, Whitehill had the opportunity to review work by design, illustration, and film production students from around the world, working last August in tandem with a team of peers.

Q: How did you decide to take on the judging gig?

I looked into the ADAA program, and was really flattered to be asked. The commitment didn’t seem to be too much— only one weekend. Also I’ve been immersed in Adobe products since Photoshop 2.5, but never had the opportunity to interact with the company on a personal level, so I was thrilled to do so and see Adobe campus.

But although the commitment is for one weekend at the Adobe campus, it’s a long schedule – 8:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. with a couple breaks, lunch, and dinner. It meant traveling for two hours from my rural studio and overnighting with family. So it wasn’t a light commitment; I had to really want to do it.

Q: What was it like arriving for the first day of judging?

I had to leave my studio in St. Helena at 4:30 a.m. to get to the Adobe campus on time, and was greeted with coffee and pastry in the kitchen. I was overawed to meet the other judges. These were people like art directors with major companies, video producers who worked with MTV in its inception, people who worked in conceptual development. But I realized coming from a book design and book arts background that I brought a unique perspective. Additionally everyone was really generous—that healthy ego you find with creative, talented people. 


Once the judging got started, it was like jumping off a ski jump. But there was so much great discussion during the judging process... Anytime you’re put into an environment with like minded people, you get to bond and know each other’s mind.


Q: Was there good communication between the judges while reviewing the student work?

When you combine the breadth of experience of all the judges, the judging becomes very comprehensive. Judging makes you articulate things you may not have realized you know. But at the same time, having other judges with different experience helped me check my reactions. For example, sometimes I’d be blown away by a student’s work, and another judge would point out that it’s actually quite derivative.

Q: What was the judging process like?

On the first day, the 14 judges were split into groups to judge in our own areas of expertise. In my group, we evaluated submissions in photography, illustration, and graphic design (fine art and commercial) I initially picked my top three candidates for each area, and later in the day, met with the other judges in my group. At that point, we started comparing each others’ choices, and selecting the group’s top three choices. 

On the second day, we continued evaluating the submissions to select the winners and honorable mentions. We also had discretion to address submissions which didn’t seem to fit a particular category, and could make recommendations to Adobe to add categories of work. The award process is very much a living being; as technology and schools develop and abandon disciplines, the categories of work can change. The result is the ico-D and Adobe are learning as much from the judges as the judges are about the work. (Note: ico-D, the International Council of Design, co-produces the ADAA with Adobe.)

By Sunday afternoon, we had made our final choices, and the groups met to review the winners of each category. That meant groups which were still questioning a choice could ask the entire body of judges to weigh in on the selection. Ico-D was great to work with; they were present to ensure that the judging adhered to standards for best practices, followed guidelines, and was fair.


I said to another judge that sometimes I felt professional jealousy because the presentation quality was so high.  I was also amazed at the extraordinary illustration talent—it felt like a privilege to view it.


Q: Were you impressed by the student work? What surprised you the most?

Overall the work was really impressive. Some projects were clearly underdeveloped but others were so professional. In fact, I said to another judge that sometimes I felt professional jealousy because the presentation quality was so high.  I was also amazed at the extraordinary illustration talent—it felt like a privilege to view it.

I was struck by how about 85% of the projects seemed to assume a limitless budget for printing, etc. I ended up gravitating to the projects that assumed that a client (fictional or otherwise) might also have a budget, so that the project was developed with limits in mind.

Q: What do you think was the best takeaway for the student winners?

The students who put together almost seamless projects may not have the ability to show their work to someone who can help them. This awards process can give recognition to students who may not have the time, opportunity, connections, or resources to promote themselves. On top of that, there are the tangible benefits, such as the trip to the AdobeMax conference, or the mentoring opportunities.

Q: And what did you get out of the process?

Once the judging got started, it was like jumping off a ski jump. But there was so much great discussion during the judging process. Even judges who didn't talk much would speak up and pull us back to the core mission. Anytime you’re put into an environment with like minded people, you get to bond and know each other’s mind. I also learned a lot about myself. It gave me the opportunity to step outside of my environment and look back at my career. And I’m so grateful I got the opportunity to contribute.

Below: Teresa Whitehill in her studio.

photo © Adrienne Simpson. Used with permission.

Teresa Whitehill in her studio

Creating Unity Through Color Editing

Posted by Rebecca Blake on June 22, 2017

How often have you faced this challenge? You have a disparate selection of images—they may have very little in common in terms of subject matter, color palette, or composition—and it’s your task to create a cohesive and effective layout using all of the images. Proper color editing of webpage images is a step most web designers overlook. Yet ignoring this crucial step can result in a webpage which is unbalanced, misdirecting the viewer’s focus and resulting in an unpleasant (if not confusing) user experience.

In her blog post titled Color Editing for Web Page Design, Photoshop & Color Specialist Martha DiMeo walks through a case study of a website’s homepage to demonstrate how editing color can be the solution to create unity and visual flow. In a recent project, she needed to combine four disparate images on a webpage. The images had previously been color corrected to be used separately, in either print or email, but didn’t work cohesively when placed together.

DiMeo’s process to reconcile the images involved carefully evaluating the combined images, and adjusting each to create rhythm and harmony. The result is a harmonious image that allows the viewer to absorb the web page with ease. To read how DiMeo identified the problem areas and adjusted the color balance, read the full article.

Martha DiMeo color editing for webpages


This article originally appeared on CQ Blog, Martha DiMeo’s blog on her website ChromaQueen.com. 
© Martha DiMeo. Paintings © Meldy Phaneuf. Color correction images © Martha DiMeo. Used with permission.

“First Expressed in Nature”: Science Illustrator Pieter Folkens Raises Copyright Concerns

Posted by Rebecca Blake on May 24, 2017

Pieter Folkens

Science illustrator Pieter Folkens came to our attention when we put out a call for a visual artist with experience in the entertainment industry. Not only is he a renowned marine mammal artist, Folkens has also created animatronics models used in films such as “Free Willy” and “Star Trek VI: The Voyage Home”. In April, Folkens represented visual artists with the Copyright Alliance at "Beyond the Red Carpet,” an event which showcased the creatives working behind the scenes in the film industry. The Alliance interviewed Folkens for their "Five Questions” interview series with individual creators. 

Five Questions with Science Illustrator Pieter Folkens” covers his early fascination with marine mammals, triggered by the discovery of fossilized shark teeth during a third-grade field trip, and shortly thereafter, excavating a 13.5 million year old sperm whale skull. That experience eventually led to a satisfying career documenting whales, dolphins, porpoises, and other marine life in scientific illustration and sculpture. As Folkens put it, “The creative process is an exercise in discovery. The enjoyment comes in two forms—initially learning new things followed by sharing them with others.”

However, it's the Alliance's probing of Folkens' experience with copyright infringment which is particularly illuminating. Folkens was one of the first science illustrators to focus on marine mammals, and his high-quality illustration has often been copied – his work has been infringed up to a dozen times a year (that he knows of). His method of dealing with the infringement is to send a passive notification, followed by an invoice for the use, and an attorney's letter. This sequence of steps permits Folkens to gauge the infringer's response and anticipate what steps he'll need to take. He strongly advises creators to “learn copyright law,’ recommending that they stay abreast of recent case law. 

It's clear he's followed his own advice in his response to the final question, on what he would change about copyright law. Folkens cites concerns with the merger doctrine and scenes à faire doctrine, two principles most visual artists are unaware of. (Put very simplistically, the merger doctrine states that when an idea and the expression of that idea are so closely tied together that they’re inseparable, then the expression can’t be copyrighted since ideas are not copyrightable. The scenes à faire doctrine states that elements of a creative work may not be copyrightable if the genre of the work dictates them – think of folklore, stock story lines, etc.) Folkens’ concern is that these doctrines are unfairly applied to works of visual arts, citing a comprehensive law review article by attorney Michael D. Murray.

In response to our query, Folkens went into greater detail:
“The issue is developing wrongly in the courts under the notion of “first expressed in nature” that says any depiction of an animal is not protectable because whatever an animal looks like or does was “first expressed in nature” and therefore not a copyrightable idea. (Taken to its extreme, Ansel Adams’ “Moon Over Half Dome” would not be a copyrightable subject because Half Dome is a rock that was first expressed in nature, and same goes for the moon.) It sounds absurd, but it has been a successful defense in several cases in the Ninth Circuit, even when the copying of the original was proven by the plaintiffs. The problem arises from the two step "reductive analysis” employed by the court that essentially removes all elements of expression in the first step (copyrightablity of the subject), keeping the second step (copying of protected elements) out of consideration and away from the trier of fact. I'm taking up that battle in the Ninth Circuit this fall.”

Folkens’ full interview can be read on the Copyright Alliance’s website. Folkens’ will also be presenting our June webinar with attorney Linda Joy Kattwinkel on "Inspiration or Infringement.”

NEA Granted a Reprieve; Arts Advocates Gear Up for the Longer Fight

Posted by Rebecca Blake on May 12, 2017

NEA logoArts advocates were appalled when the budget proposed by the Trump transition team called for eliminating the National Endowment for the Arts, along with steep cuts to other cultural and social programs. On April 30th, Congressional leaders came to a bipartisan agreement to fund the government through September. The House Appropriations Committee FY 2017 Omnibus Summary lists a full $150 million each to the NEA and to the National Endowment for the Humanities, an increase of $2 million. In an email to the Los Angeles Times, an NEA spokesperson wrote that the funding increase matched a request made by the agency in February 2016.

Americans for the ArtsWhile the news is a welcome reprieve, arts advocates are not breathing easy – the administration has proposed defunding the NEA entirely in 2018Americans for the Arts has orchestrated a comprehensive campaign: they've been conducting an online petition through their Action Center, their Arts Mobilization Center publishes updates on federal funding for the arts, and they’ve conducted a print ad campaign, “The Arts Put America to Work,” which highlights the 4.8 million Americans employed in the arts.

That last statistic that is supported by data. In April, the NEA released the results of a study conducted with the Bureau of Economic Analysis. The study showed that total arts and cultural industries in the United States employ 4,802,813 individuals at a compensation of $355 billion. Of that amount, core arts and cultural industries (“originators of ideas and content associated with the creation of arts and culture”) employ 950,997, at a compensation of $68 billion. The study results are posted online with an interactive map which permits viewers to see the economic contribution of the arts state-by-state.

Below: Clicking onto each state on the interactive map on the NASAA website pulls up data for that state.

NEA BEA map

The Guild Supports S.1010, “The Register of Copyrights Selection and Accountability Act”

Posted by Advocacy Liaison on May 05, 2017

The Graphic Artists Guild applauds the introduction of “The Register of Copyrights Selection and Accountability Act” into the Senate as S.1010 on May 2nd. In a show of bipartisan support, the bill was introduced by members of the Senate Judiciary Committee: Chair Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Ranking Member Diane Feinstein (D-CA), former chair Orrin Hatch (R-UT), and former Ranking Member Patrick Leahy (D-VT). The Guild supported the House version of the bill, H.R.1695, which passed the House on April 16 by 378-48.

S.1010 seeks to make the the Register of Copyrights a Presidential appointee for a 10-year term, with certain requirements: 

• The appointee must be selected from a list of candidates selected by the Speaker of the House, the President pro tempore of the Senate, the majority and minority leaders of the House and the Senate, and the Librarian of Congress.

• The appointee must be a U.S. citizen with professional experience in copyright law.

• The appointee must be capable of identifying and supervising a chief information officer responsible for managing modern information technology systems. 

Under current copyright law, the Register is appointed by the Librarian of Congress. The sudden removal of the previous Register of Copyrights, Maria Pallante, last October cast a spotlight on the need for greater autonomy of the Copyright Office. Along with a coalition of visual artist associations, the Guild has advocated for that, including making the Register of Copyrights a Presidential appointee. Doing so is also a vital step towards proceeding with modernization of the Copyright Office, which is vital to the concerns of graphic artists.

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